Attitudinal Changes Toward Body-Worn Cameras: Perceptions of Cameras, Organizational Justice, and Procedural Justice Among Volunteer and Mandated Officers

Date01 December 2020
Published date01 December 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Attitudinal Changes
Toward Body-Worn
Cameras: Perceptions
of Cameras,
Organizational Justice,
and Procedural Justice
Among Volunteer and
Mandated Officers
Jessica Huff
, Charles M. Katz
Vincent J. Webb
, and E. C. Hedberg
Little is known about officer perceptions of body-worn cameras (BWCs), and
whether perceptions change following implementation within their agencies. BWC
deployment varies, with some agencies mandating officers to wear BWCs and others
using volunteers. Researchers have yet to assess attitudinal differences between
volunteers and mandated officers. This study addresses these gaps using data from
an evaluation of BWCs in the Phoenix Police Department to examine officer per-
ceptions of the utility of BWCs, perceptions of organizational justice, and support
for using procedural justice. We use inverse propensity weighted difference-in-
difference models to examine changes in officer perceptions over time between
randomly selected officers who were mandated to wear a BWC, BWC volunteers,
officers who resisted BWCs, and control officers. We identified limited significant
Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice,
Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ, United States
NORC at the University of Chicago, Boston, MA, United States
Corresponding Author:
Jessica Huff, Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety, School of Criminology and Criminal
Justice, Arizona State University, 411 N. Central Ave, Suite 680, Phoenix, AZ 85004, United States.
Police Quarterly
2020, Vol. 23(4) 547–588
!The Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1098611120928306
differences in perceptions of BWCs over time, though effect sizes suggest that BWC
volunteers and mandated officers were more subdued in their expectations about
BWCs at the posttest.
body-worn cameras, police attitudes, organizational justice, procedural justice
Despite the widespread expansion of body-worn camera (BWC) programs in
police agencies throughout the United States, research examining off‌icer atti-
tudes toward this technology is relatively limited. Much of the extant research in
this area examines off‌icer attitudes using cross-sectional methodologies, report-
ing f‌indings from data collected at one time period only. This is an important
limitation given the inability of these studies to assess change in perceptions over
time as off‌icers gain experience using BWCs. Those studies that have used pre-
test–posttest designs have largely found that off‌icers become more favorable
toward BWCs in the posttest period (Gaub et al., 2016; Lum et al., 2019).
Many of the studies reporting changes in off‌icer attitudes toward BWCs over
time use survey data collected as part of larger evaluations of BWCs (Lum et al.,
2019). These evaluations use different methodologies for deploying BWCs, with
some using randomly selected off‌icers who were mandated to wear a BWC (e.g.,
White et al., 2018) and others using randomly selected off‌icers who volunteered
to wear a BWC (e.g., Braga et al., 2017 who used volunteers to avoid potential
issiues with the police union). The technology required to support BWCs can
limit the scope of an evaluation. For example, researchers in Las Vegas were
required to reduce the number of area commands eligible for their study because
they needed to have suff‌icient docking stations to charge the BWCs and to
upload BWC footage (Sousa et al., 2016). As such, it is not always possible
or practical to examine the impact of BWCs using all off‌icers employed by an
agency. This variation in the approaches used to deploy BWCs prevents a direct
comparison of perceptions of BWCs between off‌icers who volunteer to wear a
camera and those who are mandated to do so. Given that off‌icers who volun-
tarily wear BWCs could differ from those who are required to wear BWCs by
their agency, it is important to examine whether the way an off‌icer was assigned
a BWC (voluntarily or mandated) impacts off‌icer perceptions of the technology
over time.
In addition to potential differences in off‌icer perceptions of BWCs them-
selves, the ways these off‌icers rate organizational justice within their agency
and their support for the use of procedural justice when interacting with citizens
could also differ based on how BWCs are assigned to off‌icers. For instance,
548 Police Quarterly 23(4)
being mandated to wear BWCs without the option to decline could impact
off‌icers’ perceptions of fairness within their agency differently than off‌icers
who choose to wear a BWC as part of an evaluation. Furthermore, the percep-
tions of off‌icers who wear BWCs could change in different ways compared with
off‌icers who did not wear a BWC. Those off‌icers who wear a BWC have direct
experience using the technology, while those who do not wear a BWC might
only hear about BWCs from their fellow off‌icers who are wearing BWCs. As
such, off‌icers who do not personally wear BWCs could have unique and differ-
ent attitudinal changes toward BWCs due to informal conversations with off‌i-
cers who do wear BWCs or due to responding to the same incidents as BWC
However, there is an important distinction between off‌icers who wear and
operate BWCs and those off‌icers who do not wear the technology and who only
experience being recorded by other off‌icers using BWCs. As such, off‌icers who
use BWCs could have different or more notable changes in their perceptions of
BWCs than off‌icers who do not use BWCs directly. Expanding the body of
research on off‌icer perceptions of BWCs has important implications for police
agencies adopting BWCs. As the use and impact of BWCs has been tied to
off‌icer receptivity to this technology (Maskaly et al., 2017; Stratton et al.,
2015), understanding off‌icer attitudes toward BWCs is important for the suc-
cessful implementation and use of BWCs.
This study addresses gaps in the police attitudes toward BWCs research using
data collected as part of a larger randomized-controlled trial of BWCs in the
Phoenix Police Department (PPD). Although the Phoenix BWC evaluation was
originally designed to assign BWCs to randomly selected off‌icers who agreed to
volunteer to wear a BWC as part of a federally sponsored project, pressure to
quickly deploy BWCs resulted in some off‌icers being randomly selected and
mandated to wear a BWC without the option to decline. Through the original
BWC assignment process, those off‌icers who were asked to volunteer and
declined were not assigned a BWC and are referred to as resistors. Randomly
selected off‌icers who were not asked to volunteer to wear a BWC and did not
wear a BWC during the study are used as a control group. Off‌icers in each of the
study groups were surveyed 1 month prior to and 6 months after the deployment
of BWCs in Phoenix. These survey data are used to examine change in off‌icer
perceptions of BWCs, organizational justice, and procedural justice from pre-
BWC deployment to postdeployment. We examine differences between off‌icers
who volunteer to wear a BWC, those mandated to wear a BWC, resistors, and
control off‌icers.
Literature Review
BWCs are a mechanism that can be used to monitor off‌icer behaviors in indi-
vidual incidents; as a result, the inf‌luence of BWCs on off‌icer attitudes toward
Huff et al. 549

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